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tv   NBC Bay Area News Special  NBC  December 7, 2013 6:30pm-7:01pm PST

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why some critics say they are being rushed into the cockpit. >> you are having to prove your child needs what the law says your child needs. >> bay area school districts denying services. how legal battles over special ed are costing all students. >> you worked at that station long enough there is a good chance you are going to come down with cancer. >> and we investigate a bay area fire station that earned the ugly reputation as the cancer station. here is chief investigative reporter tony kovaleski. >> for the next 30 minutes we investigate exposing stories, uncovering issues and holding government accountable. we begin on the tarmac with an investigation on the growing demands of pilots. critics say it could affect your safety. the asiana crash at sfo last summer refocused the attention
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on how foreign pilots learn to fly. investigative reporter found many being trained in the united states but have lower standards than american pilots. >> it took 23-year-old anthony three years of on the ground book study just to get here. he is prepping his training aircraft as part of the ten to 12 month long process to fulfill his dream. >> i wanted to be someone like that because it is special. >> reporter: a dream he has had since he was 10 back home in china. >> for a o10-year-old kid like i was. >> reporter: a dream of becoming a commercial pilot. 27-year-old mohammed from tunisia shares that dream getting his training in hayward. according to the faa nearly 24,000 foreign pilots have gotten either a commercial or
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air transport license over the last four years here in america. they and thousands of others who come here to train hope to join them. california is a major destination state for the foreign students. according to the faa arizona, california and florida have the most flight schools in the country, 167 total. >> i trust american system. >> reporter: we visited and researched a half dozen of the schools in places like redding, around the bay area, bakersfield and phoenix. all of the schools are either run by foreign airlines or trained students already employed by the foreign airlines. >> the goal of all is to become commercial pilots. >> reporter: the head instructor in redding. >> i am always telling the students that you are going to carry thousands of people in your career, thousands of people that you don't know will trust you to get them to their
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destination safely. >> reporter: he says all 140 students are from china and each hired by a chinese airline and paid in full and each get their commercial pilot's license in about a year. teaching foreign students has unique challenges. >> somebody might know how to teach but how to teach someone who english is not their native language is another thing entirely. >> reporter: it is why these students take english classes at the flight school. says a lack of access to planes at home is the biggest obstacle. >> general aviation is virtually not existent. >> my favorite part is flying. >> reporter: here they learn the basics. students get 190 hours in a plane. these pilots will go home and take another year or so to get
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rated on big airplanes and then expect to end up in the right seat of cockpits of large commercial jets as a first officer with only about 250 hours total flying time. >> what kind of airplane you want to fly? >> 747. >> reporter: here in the u.s. similarly trained pilots don't set foot in the cockpit of commercial jets until they have 1,500 hours flying time. that say critics leads to safety concerns. >> when we return our investigation continues as we keep the spot light focused on pilot training. are some foreign students being rushed into the cockpit? former flight instructorser answert that question next. [ laughter ] he loves me. he loves me not. he loves me. he loves me not. ♪
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before the break we took you inside one of our flights.
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federal investigators looking at pilot training and decisions made by the flight crew. tonight some experts tell investigative reporter steven stock they have major safety concerns about training levels of foreign pilots. >> reporter: less than a year ago anthony first set foot in an airplane. now he is flying one in redding. >> it is a huge responsibility. >> reporter: in hopes that in another year's time he will be flying back home in china. >> being a commercial pilot is a special job. >> reporter: last year alone the faa issued nearly 5,000 commercial to foreign pilots. many go on to fly large commercial jets within a year of leaving these u.s. based flight schools. this veteran flight instructor taught aspiring pilots from china for almost four years. >> they definitely need more practice. >> reporter: he says he quit his
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job in frustration. he wanted us to hide his identity because he does not want to jeopardize a future career in aviation but he does want to expose what he considers safety issues. >> it was lacking. they wanted somebody to tell them what to do. >> reporter: this instructor said he was pressured by the flight school and airlines to pass pilots who were not ready to fly commercial jets. >> students i felt were not ready they say send them anyway and we will see how they are doing. even though i didn't feel i should sign them off. >> reporter: did that create a safety hazard in your mind? >> absolutely. >> reporter: we contacted that flight cool where the instructor worked. a manager there denied that pilots were rushed to graduate. this instructor said the pilots he trained would then go back home and within a year be flying
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as a co-pilot of big jets, 737s, 747s. >> i have students two years after they left me and they were already [ inaudible ]. >> reporter: with 380 people behind? >> absolutely. >> reporter: don't believe him? then listen to this man. >> they are unprepared for the task that they are being paid. >> reporter: he is david baker. he was a flight instructor before retiring to fly corporate jets around the world. >> there seems to be, i think, an almost indecent hurry to get young co-pilots cht. >> reporter: all of the flight schools we visited said they train to full standards and don't cut corners and admitted they have no control over what happens after the pilots go back home. >> does it worry you not not enough pilots have the skills? >> yes, it does worry me.
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it should worry any responsible pilot that co-pilots are getting into cockpits these days and they are unprepared. >> reporter: in a statement pacific said it has some of the most rigorous pilot training standards in the world. asiana airlines announced it was changing the way it trained future pilots and federal investigators scheduled public hearings this week which focus on the flight crew's actions and training. after the break we investigate the battle over education and how it is affecting all students next. we all have our little tricks.
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mom swaps one of my snacks for a yoplait. i don't mind, i mean it's orange crème. and when mom said bobby was too edgy... 'sup girl. i just swapped him out for tyler. 'sup girl. mom never questioned bobby again. two can play at this game. [ female announcer ] swap one snack a week for a yoplait. and everybody wins. yoplait. it is so good. now an investigation into spending your tax dollars, parents taking to the courtroom
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to get help for kids in the classroom. found some of the bay area's most vulnerable students not getting the basic education they deserve. it is an issue affecting all students in public schools. >> i went to the school begging for help. >> and the school district fought us tremendously. >> it is an overwhelming process. >> reporter: for parents of students with disabilities getting public education their children are promised can be contentious. about one in ten students receive special education. >> can you put it on the first tape? >> reporter: almost 700,000 kids each year. three were robin hanson's including her son jared diagnosed with autism in fifth grade. >> i used to write letters about my children. no one would answer me. >> reporter: despite the diagnosis sf unified refused to provide him with a class for
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autistic kids. the district took hanson to court in a dispute she eventually won. >> so many school districts ignore the law or don't take it seriously. >> reporter: schools versus students, a scene played out in courtrooms statewide. federal law says schools have to identify students with disabilities and provide them with a free and appropriate public education. according to the state since 2010 more than 10,000 families have gone to court to fight for that education. >> they are not fighting me. they are not fighting the system. they are not trying to save money. they are fighting a 6 year old. >> reporter: this mom says school district leaders initially refused to provide services to her son despite his adhd diagnosis. >> one of the staff told me this
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is protocol to get turned down over and over until they allow you in. >> reporter: she said later the district promised to provide one-on-one counseling but says her son never received those services. >> it's not okay to play games especially when you know that the child needs services. >> reporter: delay and deny, a tactic that has become common in some districts. the federal department of special education issued this memo warning schools to stop. her son richard was diagnosed with depression and bipolar condition. >> you are having to prove your child needs what the law says your child needs. >> reporter: she spent years battling and says it wasn't until she filed a lawsuit that richard received help. these battles affect all students when districts have to
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pay legal fees. the investigative unit analyzed records from the three bay area districts with the most special ed lawsuits. we found oakland unified spent on outside legal fees. san francisco spent about 460,000. compare that to the $25,000 a year it costs on average. the amount spent could have provided services for 83 students. >> i think most of the situations that end up in court are cases that could have been resolved earlier and much cheaper. >> reporter: attorney co founded the disability rights in education defense fund. >> for parents there is an absolute feeling of betrayal. the system is not working the way it is supposed to work. >> it is an emotional issue.
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>> reporter: the interim superintendent for morgan hill unified. while he was not on staff during jane's case he says the district has worked to improve special ed services including offering $2,000 hiring bonuses to recruit qualified special ed teachers. >> districts sometimes actively delay or deny the services to students. as an administrator have you seen that and why does it happen? >> i have seen that. i don't believe that that is ethical. it is not professional. >> reporter: he says funding is a challenge for all districts. the federal government is supposed to pay for 40% of special ed services but on average only chips in 17%. he says tight budgets are no excuse to delay or deny services. >> equity doesn't mean everybody gets the same. equity means everybody gets what they deserve to help make them the most successful.
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>> reporter: robin hanson right a blog to support parents and arm them with the education they need to assure their children get the schooling they are promised. >> when they have a child they have to do everything in their power to raise the child and you want them to be independent when they grow up and education is the answer tot that. >> the bay area district asked to speak with san jose and san francisco declined or ignored the request. there are about two dozen lawsuits. weill follow those developments. coming up after the break -- >> anybody work at san jose fire can remember a friend that had died of cancer. >> we investigate why a fire station has the reputation as the cancer station. did you get chips for the party? nope.
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one of the bay area's busiest fire stations. it has another reputation, to many known as the cancer station. there is no direct connection. for more than a decade it is a name well known to san jose firefighters. now, we investigate holding the city accountable for a reputation that won't go away.
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>> there is no cure for my cancer. >> reporter: mike cunningham has multiple myeloma. >> what is the reputation? >> two words, a dump. >> there are a lot of older guys that worked at that station long enough. there is a good chance they come down with cancer. >> my life has changed. it alterred. >> two veteran firefighters both retired and both fighting for their lives. both spent time working at station five and recognize the fact firefighters are at a greater risk for cancer. but they want the city to explore why station five has earned the unusual reputation as the cancer station. >> you know, when you work at
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5:00 you can5 you can't wait to go to another station. everybody can remember a friend who died of cancer who had at some time worked at station five. >> i looked at him and i said your poppy's coming home to die. >> reporter: melissa martinez broke that news to her 8-year-old son. her husband died in august of last year two months after doctors diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, an extremely aggressive cancer. >> just in a quick moment's time he was gone. i became a single mom with three kids. >> that was august 10, 2012. jose martinez died two weeks after melissa gave birth to their twin girls, sophia and
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olivia. knowing what you now know about station five, do you wonder? >> well, it lingers. it lingers in the back of my mind. i wonder. >> reporter: martinez, cunningham all part of a growing list of firefighters diagnosed with cancer and having fire station five on their resumes. during the past six months the nbc bay area investigative unit has interviewed dozens of current and former san jose firefighters trying to understand the foundation of station five's reputation. we found at least 15 station five firefighters diagnosed with cancer. >> scientifically looking at it would you say i developed cancer as a consequence of being at this fire station? probably not. >> reporter: dr. wilson directs and services as lead investigator for uc berkeley's occupational and environmental
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health program. >> could you say there may have been exposurest that happenedt at this fire station that contributed to the development of cancer? that is plausible. >> reporter: an epidemiologist said cancer clusters in general are rare. but several san jose firefighters say the concerns of station five are not limited to cancers. they also point out a series of environmental exposures during more than a decade. >> the reputation was that it was a dirty place to work, a place to stay away from if you could and that if you worked there you would be exposed to things you wouldn't bet at other stations. >> reporter: fire station five sits at a highly industrial part of the city. for years firefighters raised concerns about problems with air quality. and the bay area air quality management district has determined station five as located in a, quote, toxic air
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contaminant zone. several studies have not identified harmful levels of contamination. perhaps the greatest concerns center on the belief that station five responds to more high risk chemical fires than any other station in the city. do you know firefighters who said i won't work at station five? >> yes. just because of the hazards around that station and the station itself. >> reporter: are those concerns credible? should they be looked into? >> i think they are certainly worthy of attention. >> reporter: the city recently addressed concerns over environmental exposures in and around station five by spending more than a million dollars redeveloping the facility. firefighters concerns go deeper. >> it would be nice if the city would step up and admit that there was a problem there. >> is it acceptable for them not to investigate what may have caused your cancer? >> no and especially when it can
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be prevented for guys in the future. >> when a group of firefighters is raising concerns like this it is incumbent for the city to respond and investigate concerns. >> former firefighters had the courage to sit in front of the camera and say something needs to be done here. agree? >> i agree. >> reporter: acting fire chief also spent time working at station five after learning the concerns raised by current and former members of his departm t department. he asked the city to take a closer look. should your fire department track cancers and look at what has happened here at station five? >> absolutely. without a doubt if there is anything we can do to try to stop that, to never put a name on a wall that says cancerer or at least we catch it early enough, absolutely. >> following our investigation san jose pledged to start tracking cancer and firefighters. it comes in the shadow of a
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recent national study tracking cancers with firefighters in chicago and san francisco. if you have a story or something for us to investigate call our tip line at 888-996-tips or send an e-mail to we thank you for watching. you are invited to join us regularly right here on nbc bay area. why? because we investigate. i'm tony kovaleski. good night. [ laughter ] he loves me. he loves me not. he loves me. he loves me not. ♪ he loves me! that's right. [ mom ] warm and flaky in 15, everyone loves pillsbury grands! [ girl ] make dinner pop! [ female announcer ] holiday cookies are a big job. everything has to be just right. perfection is in the details. ♪ pillsbury cookie dough.
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make the holidays pop! ] pillsbury cookie dough. >> announcer: the following program is sponsored by operation smile. every year, hundreds of thousands of children are born with cleft lip and or cleft palate. >> dr. bill magee: why should any child, anywhere on this planet, have to live a life of misery. >> kathy majette: a lot of people think that children that are born with these deformities are cursed. just imagine a life alone, that nobody wanted to be around you. >> norrie oelkers: and we had children coming in for screening with brown bags over their head. they're never allowed to leave their house unless they have a bag on their heads. >> kathy majette: some children don't live, because they have problems with eating, and drinking, and die of malnutrition. >> mel: and they see us as their last resort. >> dr. jill gora: every child deserves a fair chance at life, >> peggy stillman: it may only take an hour to do something that will change their lives forever. >> noreen kessler: and you just see a whole new person, a whole new beginning. it's almost like they're reborn. i can't think of another word but phenomenal.
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[ music ] >> roma downey: as a mother, i would do anything i could to help my child live a normal life. and i'm sure you would, too. but what if you couldn't do anything? what if you were totally helpless? that's the situation for hundreds and thousands of parents in developing countries whose children are born with cleft lip or cleft palate. in the united states, these deformities are corrected shortly after birth. but in many countries around the world, these children are left untreated and are shunned. [ music ] [ children's voices ] >> roma downey: i'm in le loi hospital. the volunteer operation smile medical team has come from all over the world to perform surgeries, and parents have brought their children here, hoping that they'll be selected.
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